After the recent response to the We The People petition that the government build a Death Star ("The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon."), BetaBeat.com reports that the White House has pulled a petition to establish State Pokémon for every state, arguing that it violated the site's Terms of Participation. Jessica R
oy of BetaBeat writes,
Though there are some worthwhile petitions on We the People, many Internet users have glommed on to the tool as an act of trolling. [...]
To be fair, the White House hasn’t exactly discouraged this sort of behavior. Last week, the administration released a hilarious response to a petition to build a Death Star which, while absolutely delightful, was probably not the best use of government time?
I have to say, I strongly disagree.
Granted, it's not directly productive for the government to employ pop culture experts to craft amusing refusals to any joke that over 25,000 people want to hear. But anything that gets people to the website gets people to an environment that might point them towards issues they care about, that do deserve the government's attention.
Furthermore, the Death Star response was interesting and informative, even if it was silly. The administration took that opportunity to illustrate parallels between the fictional geekyness of Star Wars and the real-world geekyness of the International Space Station. They also pointed out what kinds of issues the government cares about, and in what ways they categorize those issues, and what kinds of considerations go into making financial decisions on a governmental scale. And it's a fair bet that that more people read the Death Star response than any other White House response, even for petitions they responded favorably to.
It's a way in, is what I'm saying. And it's a cheap-as-hell one. I consider it an outright poor decision to pull the Pokémon petition. Instead, they could talk about the importance of national symbol making, the American entertainment industry versus that of our foreign allies, and the interrelationship between government and pop culture.
Or they could have assigned the states official Pokémon. I mean, seriously, why not?